The majority of cosmetic manufacturers use in their exfoliating products tiny spherical particles of POLYETHYLENE (the most common type of plastic) as abrasive ingredient. There have been peer-reviewed scientific studies demonstrating that these microparticles (up to 1 mm) are not effectively retained in the waste water treatment plants, ending up in rivers and ultimately in the ocean.
Plastic is virtually non-degradable in the oceans, due to sea’s low temperature and light and is therefore a very pervasive and persistent pollutant. Most of us are aware of the impacts plastic can have in turtles and sea-birds but what is not so widespread is the fact that plastic just fragments into tiny bits (“microplastics”) and in some parts of the world can be a few times more abundant than plankton.
An emerging recognition is that the microplastics may be entering the food-chain (small crustaceans, shellfish, fish and… consequently humans!)(2, 3) due to its size and abundance, as particle feeders do not distinguish them. Microspheres of plastic represent therefore a direct input and contributor to the oceanic “plastic soup”. This is truly unnecessary, as there are alternatives to the use of this compound (e.g. sugar, clay, etc) that though may not be as cheap (and may damage the plastic’s industry business) are undoubtedly less risky to natural ecosystems and our own health.
A petition has been set up to press identified branding companiesto ban plastic beads from their products: